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Going after Clemens stupid, political

By Jeff Pearlman, Special to CNN
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Roger Clemens speaks to the media in Washington on Monday, June 18, after he was found not guilty of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among Major League players. Click through the gallery for a look back at his career. Roger Clemens speaks to the media in Washington on Monday, June 18, after he was found not guilty of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among Major League players. Click through the gallery for a look back at his career.
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Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Pearlman: Now Roger Clemens is cleared, we can all agree this was waste of time
  • Pearlman asks with all that's wrong in the country, why did government go after ballplayer?
  • He says everyone knows Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs
  • Pearlman: Exile from baseball is enough; government wasted time, money to pursue Clemens

Editor's note: Jeff Pearlman is a columnist for SI.com. He blogs at jeffpearlman.com. His most recent book is "Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton." Follow him on twitter @jeffpearlman.

(CNN) -- Well, Roger Clemens has finally done it.

After winning 354 games and two World Series titles, after striking out 4,672 batters and being selected to 11 All-Star Games, after bringing hope to Boston and bliss to New York and revival to Houston, the Rocket has, at long last, accomplished something bigger than the game of baseball itself. Somehow, this man -- this preposterous man -- has united America.

It's true. With Monday's acquittal of charges that Clemens lied to Congress in 2008 when he insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-year big league career, Americans across all boundaries came together as one. Republicans and Democrats, tea partiers and Occupiers, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites, dog lovers and cat lovers, nuns and death row inmates -- all could hold hands and sing in one loud, harmonious voice, "What the hell is our government doing?"

Jeff Pearlman
Jeff Pearlman

Seriously, what the hell is our government doing? When the 12 jurors (eight men, four women) made it clear Monday that Clemens would be found guilty on none of the six counts, the retired pitcher bit his lip, wiped tears from his eyes and hugged his sons. He just as easily could have flashed a middle finger toward the prosecutors.

News: Baseball great Roger Clemens found not guilty of perjury

The unemployment rate is 8.3%. Our roads are crumbling, our bridges falling apart. Our public schools are in dire need of, well, everything. Cities near and far require larger police and fire forces. Health care demands serious attention. On and on and on and on.

Toobin: Steroid prosecutions mostly fail
Why the Clemens case fell apart
Clemens on verdict: Time to be thankful
What are Clemens' Hall of Fame chances?

And the government spends four years and, undoubtedly, million upon million of dollars going after ... a ballplayer?

Really?

I'll tell you what -- let's take a break here and get some things out of the way. Three years ago I wrote "The Rocket That Fell to Earth," a biography of Clemens. (Note: If you think this is a sales plug, it's not. I assure you, plenty of copies can be had in the 50%-off bin at your neighborhood dollar store.)

I devoted a good chunk of time to researching the man's life and career, and will proceed to answer the pressing questions: A. Did Clemens take some sort of performance-enhancing drug? Almost certainly; B. Was he aware he was taking some sort of performance-enhancing drug? Almost certainly squared; C. Is it possible that his wife, Debbie, took HGH without Clemens knowing, and that Andy Pettitte, his pious Yankee teammate, lied when he testified under oath that Clemens confided in him about his HGH usage? Uh, no; D. Is Clemens a dunderhead of epic dunderheadedness? Son, you don't even know the half of it.

Personally speaking, I have little doubt (translation: absolutely no doubt) that Clemens cheated. Nor, for that matter, do the majority of the Major League contemporaries I've interviewed through the years.

And he will pay for this in enormous ways -- his dream of being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (dead); his invitation to Old Times Day at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium (lost in the mail); his position as a broadcaster or Big League pitching coach (don't hold your breath). Clemens hasn't sniffed a new endorsement opportunity for years, and they sure as hell won't start coming now. He is a baseball pariah -- Barry Bonds without the uncanny cruelness.

And, truth be told, that should be enough. Like Pete Rose before him, Clemens lives for baseball. It is his air, his food, his blood, his identity. To deny him of a place in the game is to deny him of a reason to look forward. Yet the U.S. government and, specifically, the U.S. attorney's office, saw something extra special in Clemens. He was an easy mark, an uncomplicated target in complicated times.

So why wouldn't the government go after Clemens? He seemed to be, like Kathie Lee Gifford and the old Soviet Union, a common enemy everyone could loathe. Surely baseball fans near and far would commend America's political class for trying to clean up the game they so dearly love.

There was just one wacky problem: As unpopular and unlikable as Clemens may well have been, he was never nearly as loathed and untrustworthy as the U.S. government.

Now, it's on to his next career ...

Politics.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.

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